Granting Some Peace of Mind

Jasreen Gupta/New University

For the last four years, Dr. Daniella Bota has helped bring UC Irvine to the forefront of modern-day chemotherapy treatments.  Dr. Bota has been focusing on “Chemo Brain,” a problem found in many patients going through or who have gone through chemotherapy, which produces difficulties in day-to-day life and society.

Bota and her colleagues found two new drugs that target the cancer stem cells without causing damage to neural stem cells.

In her research, they discovered that the current chemotherapy drugs used to treat patients suffering from brain tumors not only target the cancer stem cells but also neural stem cells. This can cause problems such as dementia in adults. Approximately 20 percent  of adults who undergo chemotherapy develop dementia. About 80 percent  of children survive a brain tumor, however chemotherapy can cause a large percent of them to develop various mental disabilities in the future.

“Our goal is to improve a patient’s way of life after chemotherapy treatment for years and years,” she said about their goals for the future of their research. Currently, Dr. Bota is working with rats in her lab to design her experimental medications that can help patients who underwent chemotherapy with the older drugs recover their lost neural stem cells. Her ambition is to not only help those in the future but also those who have suffered in the past.

“My hope is that we will be able to replace the cells,” she said. “We will be able regain the cognition.”

This pushes UCI to help everyone from children undergoing chemotherapy to elderly people who are currently fighting difficulties with memory loss.

Bota is also co-director of UCI’s Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program.

“The reason we call it comprehensive is because we all work together,” said Dr. Bota. “One patient can come see all of us in one place, which is rare. Only five other programs can offer what we can in Southern California and we are the only program in Orange County.”

UCI’s doctors are putting the university in the forefront of chemotherapy treatment. “UCI will be playing a minor role in this field in the future. We are finding ourselves at the front of this research. We have a big group so we can truly impact the future of patient care,” she said.

When patients call to make an appointment with UCI’s Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program, they are seen through the whole process.

Most of the individuals who call the program have been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, usually in the emergency room. They are initially, “arranged to see a surgeon and medical professional.” These patients are treated for a myriad of problems such as “headaches, confusion and seizures.” They are also given advice on treatments regarding radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Dr. Bota along with the rest of the staff “coordinates their care throughout the process.”

Dr. Bota brings her unique perspective to analyzing certain cases brought to the UCI Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program. She has a great deal of experience in both oncology and neurology and is able to utilize her knowledge from both enhance treatment of the patients.

“Oncologists don’t look much at the brain’s situation, but because I am a neurologist, it’s easy for me to see this and be aware of the problems that can occur,” she said.